Moonlight Rests on My Left Palm. Poems and Essays
English translation by Fiona Sze-Lorrain
Yu Xiuhua’s Moonlight Rests on My Left Palm, translated by Fiona Sze-Lorrain, grows out of highly personal terrain. This farmer-poet says in an essay (Moonlight is sectioned by eight lyrical essays): ‘We have man-handled so many words that I only dream of using them anew.’ Yu says exactly what she means; and Sze-Lorrain honors the feeling and music in intimate translation. Thus, the poet’s language rises out of the natural, tinged by elemental soil and light. — Yusef Komunyakaa, author of Everyday Mojo Songs of Earth
I love reading these poems and essays by Yu Xiuhua. I feel befriended by them, by her. Courage, honesty, a love of words, and a wry sense of humor run through the pages of Moonlight Rests on My Left Palm, translated with grace and simplicity by Fiona Sze-Lorrain. When Yu writes in an essay, ‘There is no better ode to life than a weed that grows ruthlessly and arches out of the ground, despite its trauma,’ we know she is telling us her own story. And yet, in a poem called ‘Wheat Has Ripened,’ she says, ‘I am pleased to have landed here / like a sparrow skirting through the sky-blue.’ How can we be anything but grateful to a poet who ends a poem of love lost: ‘I still hope / to err over and over’ — Mary Helen Stefaniak, author of The Cailiffs of Baghdad, Georgia
Starting with the viral poem “Crossing Half of China to Fuck You,” Yu Xiuhua’s raw collection in Fiona Sze-Lorrain’s translation chronicles her life as a disabled, divorced, single mother in rural China.
Yu Xiuhua was born with cerebral palsy in Hengdian Village, Hubei Province, in Central China. Unable to attend college, travel, or work the land with her parents, Yu remained home where she could help with housework. Eventually she was forced into an arranged marriage that became abusive. She divorced her husband and moved back in with her parents, taking her son with her.
In defiance of the stigma attached to her disability, her status as a divorced single mother, and as a peasant in rural China, Yu found her voice in poetry. Starting in the late 90’s, her writing became a vehicle with which to explore and share her reflections on homesickness, family and ancestry, the reality of disability in the context of a body’s urges and desires.
Then, Yu’s poem “Crossing Half of China to Fuck You” blew open the doors on the patriarchal and traditionalist world of contemporary Chinese poetry. She became an internet sensation, finding a devoted following among young readers who enthusiastically welcomed her fresh, bold, confessional voice into the literary canon.
Thematically organized, Yu’s essays and poems are in conversation with each other around subjects that include love, nostalgia, mortality, the natural world and writing itself.
- Praise for the author:
“She is China’s Emily Dickinson. Yu Xiuhua’s poetry is pure poetry, the poetry of life. It’s not for adorning banquets or feasts, but as a meteor shower of language, that dazzles and moves you heart until it aches.” — Shen Rui, poet and critic
”Yu Xiuhua stands in her own world, transcending circumstances and identity. She is a pure poet.” — Ma Ding, writer and publisher
- Featured in the Los Angeles Weekly Times.